Police sought records about Bearson photos
FARGO, N.D. -- Police here wanted to know about the messages Tommy Bearson was exchanging through a popular smartphone app, a rare public glimpse at the investigation into killing of the North Dakota State University freshman.
FARGO, N.D. - Police here wanted to know about the messages Tommy Bearson was exchanging through a popular smartphone app, a rare public glimpse at the investigation into killing of the North Dakota State University freshman.
Bearson, an 18-year-old from Sartell, went missing after leaving a party just south of the NDSU campus in the early morning hours of Sept. 20.
He was found three days later about five miles away in the sales lot of an RV dealer in an industrial area of south Moorhead.
Police have said Bearson died of homicidal violence but haven’t specified how. They’ve also said they don’t have a suspect or motive identified in the slaying.
According to a warrant filed Thursday in Cass County District Court, Fargo police subpoenaed Snapchat on Oct. 13, seeking the contents of Bearson’s Snapchat account, such as messages.
Snapchat is a smartphone app for sending images and messages that are deleted automatically shortly after the recipient sees them.
The Los-Angeles based company responded to the Fargo police subpoena the next day, Oct. 14, by confirming that the account for “seetommyb23” was linked to Bearson’s email and phone number. However, Snapchat informed Fargo police it only releases the contents of an account in response to a search warrant.
Though Snapchat deletes messages from its servers once all recipients have seen them, messages that are unread are kept for 30 days.
According to the affidavit for the search warrant, Fargo police responded to Snapchat’s response on Feb. 18, asking for the contents of Bearson’s accounts - including a log of previous communications.
Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said he wasn’t familiar with Snapchat’s deletion schedule, but that the delay in filing the search warrant was connected to investigators prioritizing productive leads over less-productive ones in the case.
Vettel said police received the information they wanted from the search warrant, which included usage logs from Bearson’s Snapchat account.
“We request this information to be thorough,” Vettel said.
There have been a number of search warrants filed in the case, though it was possible some of them had been sealed from public view, he said.
Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said Friday he isn’t sure how many search warrants have been filed in Clay County District Court in the Bearson case. No publicly viewable search warrant affidavits have been filed in Clay County.
Jacobson said investigators have received a lot of voluntary cooperation from members of the public, which often removes the necessity for law enforcement to seek search warrants.